Cannabis officially broke into the mainstream in 2019. The passage of the Farm Bill put CBD products in shops on every corner, and introduced a whole new group of wellness-focused Americans to cannabis, hemp, and their compounds.
As regulators debated how best to regulate CBD, the hype around cannabis marched steadily onward. By year’s end, about 90 percent of Americans said they approved of some form of cannabis legalization ー and politicians seemed to be listening. Some 11 states and DC had legalized adult-use cannabis, and there was unprecedented traction on the federal level.
But more cannabis and CBD companies flooding the market spells more challenges for companies looking to stand out in the space. Enter pop culture influencers: celebrities, musicians, and athletes.
“In these early days of legalisation, the race is on to build brand equity/distribution, which is increasingly difficult with more products hitting the market all the time, all competing for the same shelf space,” Cowen analysts wrote in a note. “Partnerships with established brands or personalities can help accelerate this process and allow products to stand out, while also targeting new consumers or adding a sense of legitimacy to their brand.”
While strapping a celebrity name to a company can drive up interest, experts warn the brands can be quite niche, and, increasingly, consumers seek out authenticity in marketing.
That said, there’s money to be made in cannabis and CBD ー and celebs are catching on. Here are some of the most notable celebrities who jumped on the cannabis bandwagon or re-upped their industry involvement in 2019:
Martha Stewart x Canopy Growth
America’s favorite domestic ex-felon took the plunge into cannabis in 2019 after fans speculated for years that the move made sense for her. Much of the excitement stemmed from her relationship with rapper and cannabis connoisseur Snoop Dogg, with whom Stewart partnered on Martha & Snoop's Potluck Dinner Party, and who she said originally introduced her to CBD. Mere months after Canada greenlit sales of adult-use cannabis, Stewart made the move official. She teamed up with cannabis giant Canopy Growth to advise on the development and launch of CBD-infused products, starting with products for pets.
Seth Rogen x Houseplant
It was no surprise when actor and producer Seth Rogen, known for playing the doughy stoner in movies like Pineapple Express, officially stepped into the cannabis industry in March of this year. He partnered with Canopy Growth to launch his brand, Houseplant, in a flurry of bold aesthetics and retro educational videos.
Rob Gronkowski x CBDMedic
New England Patriots’ start Rob Gronkowski ー “Gronk” to his fans ー has held the cannabis industry in the palm of his giant hands since entering the space in August. Just a few months after retirement, the famous athlete threw in his fortunes with CBD company CBDmedic to make recovery products like topical pain relief lotions.
Gronkowski said he discovered the stuff after jamming his toe playing soccer post-retirement. “Could have got that relief throughout the week after games, even during games. But, you know, I found it now,” said Gronkowski, who has been advocating for the NFL to permit CBD for pain relief.
Flo Rida x JustCBD
Miami-based rapper Flo Rida partnered with JustCBD to create a CBD-infused gummy called Jet Setter. Flo Rida told Cheddar he wanted to create an immune boosting supplement for people on the go like musicians, entertainers, and entrepreneurs.
Tony Hawk x 1933 Industries
Professional skateboarder Tony Hawk soared into CBD in March, when his House of Hawk company partnered with 1933 Industries on a line of recovery balms and lotions. Sales of the Birdhouse- and Canna Hemp X-branded products kicked off in November.
Drake x Canopy Growth
Canadian musician and entertainer Drake partnered up with Canopy Growth to launch Toronto-based cannabis producer More Life Growth Co. Drake will own 60 percent of the company, which draws its name from a 2017 project.
Kevin Durant x Canopy Rivers
2019 was the year of NBA star Kevin Durant’s cannabis coming out party. Months after an investment in cannabis on-demand and delivery service Dutchie, Durant and business partner Rich Kleiman's VC, Thirty Five Ventures, joined the strategic advisory board of cannabis-focused venture capital firm Canopy Rivers.
The two companies plan to leverage each other's’ experience moving forward and co-invest on cannabis-related deals. Thirty Five Ventures hinted it would be willing to look outside of the ancillary category ー which is typically more insulated from risk than plant-touching companies ー when considering cannabis investments in the future.
UFC x Aurora
Ultimate Fighting Championship and Canadian cannabis giant Aurora Cannabis in May inked a blockbuster eight-year agreement to study the effects of CBD on athletes' battered bodies. The partnership aims to produce multiple studies on the impacts of the substance on MMA fighters, which will be used to formulate various recovery products. At the time, experts speculated the move would warm other professional sports organizations to the idea of permitting CBD and cannabis use for athletes. MLB officially changed its policy on cannabis in December.